It’s the last week of October….is there any doubt what kind of week we have coming at us for college football? We have teams knocking on our door, yelling “Trick or Treat,” and we don’t know what they are looking like. We’ve got teams pretending to be any number of things and some out to prove they are not pretenders of any kind. Let’s check in with the ghosts and goblins for a college football week 9 preview.
Clemson @ North Carolina State; Sat. 3:30pm EDT, ABC/ESPN 2; The great pumpkin is rising out of the pumpkin patch, with a hint of purple thrown in. Clemson has earned every bit of the accolades and deserves to be a top three team in the country. They are one of the most complete teams the last few weeks, and with Florida State losing last week, they are also the lone undefeated ACC team. That also presents a problem. Clemson will only be playing two top ranked teams. Notre Dame, whom they beat, and Florida State. The FSU loss could hurt the Tigers’ strength of schedule argument because the rest of the ACC is like a kid who shows up at your door as a ghost, just wearing his mom’s white bed sheet…it’s pretty devoid of substance. North Carolina State is 5-2, but four of those wins have come against non P5 conference schools…kind of like someone dressing up in one of those “sexy police women” costumes….just no real effort to get to the final results. Clemson needs the win to stay playoff viable.
Georgia vs. Florida; Sat 3:30pm EDT CBS; This game has its own theme. This is when you were a kid and your dad and uncle volunteered to take you around the neighborhood, and you thought the wagon was to ride in when you got tired, but it was realty hauling their cooler of beer for the night of trick or treating, (excuse me, my therapist is on the other line). The annual cocktail party is on in Jacksonville. The top two teams in the SEC East square off, with one-loss Florida still having aspirations of a playoff bid. Florida has been through its annual allotment of off field and injury issues, but if the Gators win this game, Jim McElwain is going to be trying on coach of the year costumes for the job he has done in Gainesville. Georgia’s Mark Richt on the other hand is wearing a transit authority sign because once again he is at a crossroads in Athens. He is averaging nearly 10 wins per season, but with only two SEC titles in 15 years he is in trouble again if he loses this game. The Bulldogs have been horribly inconsistent at quarterback this season and Florida has one of the best statistical defenses in the SEC. Mark Richt may have a hobo duffel bag next time you see him.
Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech; Sat 3:30pm EDT ESPN; So a Red Raider and a Cowboy walk into a bar, and…oh never, mind. The end result is the same; an old western shootout. Oklahoma State is one of three Big XII teams still undefeated and they still have Baylor and TCU ahead of them. That makes this last stand in Lubbock all the more critical. Oklahoma State is averaging 40 points a game which is right on target with what the Red Raider defense gives up. The challenge is that Texas Tech scores 46 points per game itself. Since Texas Tech is 125th nationally in run defense, expect Chris Carson and Rennie Childs to get plenty of carries for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have won six in a row in this series. Yes, I know Texas Tech has a masked rider on horseback, but look at their sideline mascot. I dare you to go trick or treating looking like that and tell me everyone didn’t call you Yosemite Sam
Maryland @ Iowa; Sat 3:30pm EDT ABC/ESPN 2; Welcome to the party Iowa! The Hawkeyes are on that run they make every 4-5 years. They are 7-0, top 10 in the country, and leading the Big 10 West. And this is not the boring run up the middle Iowa of generations past. This is a Hawkeyes team that averages just under 500 yards per game of offense with half being through the air and half on the ground. They are the Avengers: Age of Ultron costume. Old school super hero meets current look. The defense is also top 10 in the nation in rushing and scoring. Now Maryland is not likely to put up much of a fight. The Terrapins may have had plenty of cool uniforms to look at, but the team is so beat up, it is just an overused zombie costume at this point. They have a long list of injuries, an interim head coach and a defensive secondary that can’t stop running water. Still, we are going to be watching to check out the Hawkeyes because they are getting overlooked in the Big 10 conversation.
Notre Dame @ Temple; Sat 8PM EDT ABC; We are all surprised at who is ringing our doorbell here, right? Temple is the kid in the costume that you stare at for a minute because you think you recognize him until you realize it’s one of the kids who came crashing your neighborhood in a mini-van because they heard you had better candy. What in goodness sakes are the Owls doing at 7-0 and in the top 25? To appreciate this you need to extol the virtues of a suffocating defense. Temple is giving up only 14.6 points per game, sixth best in the country. The other you thing you need to admire is that this is Temple!!! They have not been ranked this late in a season since 1979. The out of the neighborhood trick or treater has some mad credentials. Facing Notre Dame gives them their biggest game in school history. The Irish are coming in some sort of royalty costume, because…well, because they are Notre Dame. Their one loss is the best loss of any one loss team in the country…on the road at Clemson. They are bringing the stars with DeShone Kizer and Will Fuller and C.J. Prosise. If Notre Dame can run the table they deserve to be in the playoff conversation, with or without a conference championship game.
Stanford @ Washington State; Sat 10:30pm EDT ESPN; You already know how Stanford fits into this theme. After all the cute little costumes have come and gone, these are the “big kids” who don’t even try to pretend to be someone else. They just show up on your doorstep with a pillow case daring you not to give them candy because you know what your house will look like the next morning if you don’t. After scoring only six points in week one, the big, bad, physical Cardinal are back, having scored at least 31 points in every game since then. But don’t sleep on Wazzu. Yeah, they got embarrassed by Portland State in week one, but since then they have won at Oregon and Arizona; and the offense is hotter than it has ever been in the Mike Leach era. The Cougars are averaging nearly 600 yards per game in their five wins. Keep some candy aside for yourself so you can stay awake on a sugar high to catch this game.